Want to fight the bite? Mosquito prevention starts at home

Birdbath
June 9, 2016
  |   9 Comments

Summer is here, and we all know what that means…..outdoor fun and, unfortunately, mosquitoes. Those pesky insects that spoil evening BBQs and parties. They cover your body in bites and leave you scratching your head (and skin) on what to do to stop them.

When people ask us at the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection what to do about mosquitoes, we tell everyone the same thing:

If you want to stop mosquitoes, prevent them from breeding. To stop the breeding, eliminate standing water. And in most cases, the standing water, and source of mosquitoes, is in our own backyards.  

 

To fight mosquitoes, you need to think like a mosquito

When people imagine standing water, we usually imagine a pond. But in reality, the standing water utilized by mosquito species of concern (those with the potential to carry Zika) is in residential areas – backyards and balconies.

To a mosquito, the typical backyard or balcony is a paradise. Mosquitoes don’t need a lot of water – as little as a bottlecap full – and there are many spots that are often overlooked by people when they search for standing water.

 

Abandoned water bowl

This dog bowl with water left outside for 5 days or more can become a mosquito source

 

If you think like a mosquito, searching out tiny pockets of standing water, you’ll be amazed the places you’ll find.

 

Download the checklist to take with you as you explore your outdoor areas for mosquito breeding locations (PDF)

A few favorite mosquito breeding sites:

Children’s Toys: The seat of a swing set, the edge of plastic toys, crevices in a sandbox all can hold water.

SOLUTION: If possible, bring toys indoors. Cover large outdoor toys and sand boxes with tarps and drain at least weekly


Containers: A container is anything from a bucket to an abandoned swimming pool. Overturning a container might not be enough as water can collect on the bottom lip.

SOLUTION: Bring containers indoors, if possible. For containers that cannot be moved inside, either add a mosquito dunk to the water (use as directed) or empty and scrub at least weekly. For swimming pools, drain if not in use.

 

Bucket left outside

Even on its side, this bucket still holds enough water for mosquitoes to breed.

 


Roof Gutters and Down-Spouts: Often overlooked, but frequent hidden breeding spots.

SOLUTION: Clean out roof gutters regularly and ensure the downspout is not clogged. Be sure to practice proper safety measures! If a down-spout extender lays flat on the ground, it could collect water inside. Tape or rubber band a piece of nylon or screen  around the end of the down-spout. The porous material will prevent mosquitoes from flying in, but allow water to get out. If possible, replace corrugated down-spouts with smooth PVC to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in the grooves of the pipe.

 


Trash: Trash in outdoor areas is a nuisance as well as a mosquito paradise.

SOLUTION: Remove all trash from outdoor areas. Soda bottles, cups, plastic bags and more, can hold enough standing water to be mosquito sources.

 


Birdbaths and Potted Plants: Common sources of mosquitoes.

SOLUTION: Birdbaths need mosquito dunks, an aerator or a running fountain to prevent mosquitoes. If using mosquito dunks, remember to follow the instructions. If none of these options are available, empty and scrub  birdbaths every few days. Remove the basin from below potted plants or flush them out and scrub at least weekly.

 

Birdbath

Unless this birdbath gets an aerator or is dumped and scrubbed regularly, it will attract mosquitoes.

 


Recycling and Trash Bins: Even though bins have drain holes, small amounts of water may still collect. Overturning them is not enough as mosquitoes can breed in the lip of the upturned bin.

SOLUTION: Store recycling and trash bins out of the rain. Dump any water at least weekly.

 


Ornamental ponds: Common sources of mosquitoes.

SOLUTION: Ornamental ponds need an aerator, and/or natural predators, like fish, to prevent mosquitoes.

 


Tarps, Pool Covers and Covers on Wood Piles: Another often overlooked mosquito source.

SOLUTION: Tighten to minimize folds. If water still collects, shake out the tarps and covers at least twice a week.

wood pile and tarp

For wood piles: Keep all logs under tarps, elevated off the ground and shake out the tarp regularly.

 


Dripping faucets and outdoor leaks: Along with being wasteful and possibly damaging to your foundations, consistent leaks can create pockets of standing water.

SOLUTION: Fix the leak and get rid of puddles from beneath window air conditioners

 

But what about ponds, stormwater management facilities and natural areas?

Ponds, stormwater management facilities, streams and natural waterbodies are typically not the source of mosquito problems for 3 reasons:

  1. They drain water within a week or less (many stormwater management facilities);
  2. They contain moving water (streams and ponds with aerators); or
  3. They contain predators that feed on mosquitoes

Further, the mosquito species of concern for their potential to carry the Zika virus are not known to breed in these areas. They focus their breeding in standing water near residential areas in the places like buckets, gutters, abandoned tires, etc.

Of course, problems with ponds and natural areas may occur, and in those instances, call MC311 for assistance.

 

Fountain in a pond

This pond prevents mosquito breeding with an fountain and by creating a natural habitat with predators

 

Mosquito prevention is everyone’s responsibility

The topic of mosquito prevention has taken on new importance as we learn more about the Zika Virus and the serious problems it is causing in Latin America.

Volunteers at a cleanup

Volunteers sorting trash after a community cleanup. Trash in yards, public spaces and roadways can be mosquito sources.

It might be cliché, but when it comes to mosquito prevention, it really is “All Hands on Deck”. Everyone has a role to play in reducing places where mosquitoes can breed around homes, apartment buildings, businesses, HOAs and religious institutions.

If you keep a watchful eye, take action on your own property and share your knowledge with friends and neighbors, we can all Fight the Bite this summer.

 

Expand your knowledge

The County has launched a great new mosquito website, with information about mosquitoes and mosquito-borne viruses, such as Zika. It also contains more info and videos that address the topics mentioned in this article.

montgomerycountymd.gov/mosquito

 

By Jessica Jones

Jessica is a frequent target of mosquitoes and has a vested interest in reducing their populations. When not trying to think like a mosquito, she is the Program Manager of Outreach and Education for the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection



9 comments on "Want to fight the bite? Mosquito prevention starts at home"

  1. cecilia davies says:

    Hi Jessica. I have a bit of a problem and I don’t know who to report this to. My neighbor’s house got caught on fire about three months ago. The house is partially damaged from the roof down and is in habitable so they moved out. But in the backyard, is a huge man made pond with about 9 or more fish which the owner left behind. The problem is there is a funny smell coming from the area around the pond which is close to my side of the fence and my deck which is close by. The house has since been boarded up and I hardly see anyone there unless probably they come when I am at work. Is there a way for the owners to be contacted or for the county to come and do an inspection, the ell is getting worse and offensive and I am pretty sure there are many receptacles there for harboring the Zika mosquitoes there.

    1. jjones says:

      Cecilia – The County Department of Housing and Community Affairs handles cases such as you described. The best way to contact DHCA is by calling 3-1-1 (if outside of the County 240-777-0311) or submitting a request at mc311.com.

  2. Linda Cubbage says:

    I would like to feed birds. The condo rules say no, but I live next to Montgomery county land. Could I put a small feeder in one of the trees. It would be away from any park or the swimming pool. I live at 14241 Kings Crossing Blvd Boyds md. I noticed the song birds are leaving the last 5 yrs and just wanted to try and attract. we had bluebirds, titemouse, finch mockingbirds , robins, but now only crows ravens, maybe get some back. it is so silent now,

    1. jjones says:

      Linda – You live next to a Montgomery Parks property, King’s Crossing Local Park. I will forward your question to a Park staff member who will be able to answer your question.

  3. Yvonne says:

    Can you tell me where I can get mosquito fish in Montgomery County?

    1. jjones says:

      My apologies on the delay in our response. I had to catch up with our biological monitoring team to get your answer:

      While the Eastern mosquito fish is naturally found in Montgomery County, we don’t recommend their introduction or release into County waters. Most of the mosquito fish that can be purchased from fish distribution and mosquito control companies are a different species, the Western Mosquito fish. Western Mosquito Fish are not native to Maryland and can disrupt our aquatic ecosystem. Beyond direct competition with native fish, fish raised in an aquaculture environment can carry diseases that are not present in a natural population. Introduction of these fish can lead to spread of disease and destabilize populations of not only our native mosquito fish, but other species of fish as well.

  4. Chris says:

    I get feeder fish at Petsmart for 17 cents apiece (I think they’re called Red Ruby or something). I used to put them all in the same bucket outside (about 5-8 at a time) but they would die off after a few weeks. Last August I was down to the last 2. I saw them nipping at each other, so I put them each in their own bucket. I still have those 2 today! I pretty much ignored them through the winter, assuming they had long since passed, either from the cold or lack of food. Nope! Alive and well.
    I have some rain barrels in my yard that I treat with BTI but I monitor them often for mosquito egg rafts and/or larvae. I actually hope that mosquitoes lay their eggs in my water because I kill them before they can reach adulthood. Each egg raft can contain 50-100 eggs. I scoop them out with a small fish tank net and feed them to the fish. I also have a neighbor who has a boat he doesn’t use parked in the cul-de-sac covered with a tarp. I checked it a couple of weeks ago and was horrified at the amount of mosquito larvae and pupae wriggling around! I scooped them out and fed them to the fish.
    I know my method is a little kooky but I am a mosquito magnet and I have noticed a decline in the mosquito population over the last couple of years. I’m also happy to answer any questions you may have.

  5. Marcy Frosh says:

    Our mosquito problem is severe, and want to replace our downspout extensions with smooth PCV and, if necessary, angle them into the soil to . Is there a recommended list of service providers to do this kind of work? Some of the companies that advertise mosquito abatement try to push their products and not this solution. Thank you very much.

    1. jjones says:

      The downspout pipe if extended (Smooth is better than corrugated) should end 4’ from the house and be draining away from the foundation. Please ensure that your gutters are draining and free from debris. If desired, a ¼ of a mosquito dunk (available at most hardware stores) can be placed monthly to the gutters.

      If the downspout extension is to be buried, bury the pipe so that it drains into some sort of stone drywell. For information on small drywells, read and follow the drywell module instructions (https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/DEP/Resources/Files/downloads/rainscapes/fact-sheets/drywells.pdf), including a perk test.

      Additional mosquito breeding areas include beds of liriope and English ivy. If mosquito issues are severe, check your landscape for areas that could potentially hold water for longer periods of time (more than 4 days).

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